“YOU’VE MADE ME CRY!”

AHEAD OF THE PROJECT CEL­E­BRAT­ING ITS 2000th EPISODE THIS WEEK, WALEED ALY IN­TER­VIEWS CAR­RIE BICK­MORE FOR STEL­LAR

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy JUSTIN RIDLER Styling MA­RINA AFONINA Creative Di­rec­tion ALEKSANDRA BEARE

Fam­ily, fame and stay­ing au­then­tic in the click­bait age were on the agenda when Waleed Aly in­ter­viewed his The Project co-host Car­rie Bick­more.

They sit next to one an­other ev­ery night while co­host­ing The Project, but the mood was dif­fer­ent when Car­rie Bick­more and Waleed Aly sat down for Stel­lar on a sunny morn­ing in Mel­bourne. Fac­ing one an­other while re­clin­ing on a non­de­script sofa in­side the build­ing where their show is filmed, Bick­more ad­mit­ted to feel­ing un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally ner­vous at the thought of be­ing quizzed by her col­league. As for Aly, de­spite hav­ing in­ter­ro­gated hun­dreds of peo­ple in the course of his day job, Stel­lar’s re­quest for him to in­ter­view Bick­more also proved to be an un­usual ex­pe­ri­ence. As both were soon to dis­cover, even when you know the per­son op­po­site you so well, there’s some­thing about the process of a for­mal in­ter­view that can un­earth un­ex­pected truths.

Waleed Aly: Bick­more, is it? Car­rie Bick­more: [Laughs.] You can call me Car­rie. WA: One “o” or two? So, we’re about to hit 2000 episodes, have you watched episode one [which went to air in July 2009]? CB: Not for a long time, I watched it very soon af­ter it hap­pened. WA: That doesn’t count. CB: I’m not very good at watch­ing my­self back or hear­ing my­self back. WA: Do you re­mem­ber it? CB: It came and went in a mas­sive blur, a fear­ful, pan­icky blur [laughs]. I will never for­get [for­mer co-host] Dave Hughes say­ing af­ter that first episode, “I think I just ended my ca­reer.” I re­mem­ber think­ing if Dave Hughes is say­ing that, and he was re­ally good, what have I got? WA: Is it fair to say at that point there is no way you could have con­ceived of us sit­ting here hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion? CB: No, at the time I re­mem­ber feel­ing like I be­lieved that we could make this work, but I wasn’t sure we were go­ing to be given the time or the lux­ury of find­ing our feet. I am still so thank­ful, and I still think ev­ery year the show changes; it evolves and it grows. I couldn’t have an­tic­i­pated it to be the way it is now. I couldn’t have an­tic­i­pated I’d be sit­ting next to you on the desk. WA: Nei­ther could I. It’s in­ter­est­ing what you say about The Project hav­ing time to find its feet – do you think it would have been given that time if it was start­ing now, be­cause the world has sped up? CB: The world has sped up. I think the world of so­cial me­dia and click­bait and all of that has made ev­ery­thing faster and more re­ac­tive and, yeah, I won­der whether we’d have had the chance to make the mis­takes we made and grow in the way we did in those first few months. WA: So, I won­der, be­cause I feel like I just got here re­ally, do you find that the job gets harder the longer you do it, or eas­ier? CB: Some el­e­ments of it get eas­ier, some el­e­ments I do with my eyes closed and I don’t even no­tice I’m do­ing them, but there are parts of the job that weren’t there in the be­gin­ning that are there now that per­haps I don’t feel as ca­pa­ble of travers­ing. I know when I speak to friends in the in­dus­try that we’re all try­ing to nav­i­gate this new space, and I often hear the same fa­mil­iar con­ver­sa­tion around peo­ple sec­ond- guess­ing what they say, be­cause they’re wor­ried it might be taken out of con­text, or wor­ried peo­ple will never see what ac­tu­ally hap­pened dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion or what the full ar­ti­cle was about, and all they will ever read is the head­line and then that might be dam­ag­ing. WA: Do you think it’s a worry in that it’s go­ing to be­come im­pos­si­ble for peo­ple to be au­then­tic on TV? CB: Yeah, I think it takes a lot of guts. Ev­ery day I keep think­ing to my­self, “Just do what you do and be your­self, and that’s all you can do.” And it’s hard; some­times you think is it just eas­ier to say what ev­ery­one wants to hear? But you have to be true to your­self and say what you think. WA: We do a sim­i­lar job, but I can never be in your shoes be­cause you are a woman on tele­vi­sion and I don’t know what that’s like. What is it that I don’t un­der­stand about what it’s like to be a woman on Aus­tralian TV? CB: I think the job you’re do­ing, be­ing who you are on TV, is far trick­ier than the job that I have to do and be­ing who I am on TV, per­son­ally. WA: We can com­pare notes. CB: [Laughs.] I think they both come with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. [Pauses.] I don’t know, I don’t spend a lot of time think­ing about it… One of the ques­tions I get asked a lot, and I won­der if you get asked it, is any woman do­ing a job that takes a lot of their time and en­ergy and com­mit­ment will get asked about how they do that and have a fam­ily, and the chal­lenges that come with that. It’s strange be­cause you prob­a­bly ex­pect me to an­swer with all the dif­fi­cul­ties of be­ing a woman from a gen­der per­spec­tive in the in­dus­try, but one of the hard­est things I find for me is try­ing to do a good job of my job at work and do a good job of my job at home. And be­fore ev­ery­one starts scream­ing “be­ing a mother isn’t a job, it’s a gift”, I know all of that… WA: But it’s work… CB: And there are el­e­ments of it you have to get through and get done, and I think that depend­ing on what day you ask me de­pends on how well I’m do­ing ei­ther of those jobs. Some­times I do one job bet­ter than I do the other. Like if you ask me to­day, I would say that right now, all morn­ing, I have had a pain in the pit of my stom­ach and I just want to be at home play­ing with [two-year-old daugh­ter] Evie, and I’ve just got this over­whelm­ing feel­ing that I want to be at home and be with her – as much as I’m en­joy­ing be­ing here with you [laughs]. But if you ask me to­mor­row, [I may] feel like I can con­quer the world and that I’m nail­ing ev­ery­thing and I’m on fire. I think for me, work­ing is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant and try­ing to get the bal­ance right ev­ery day is tricky. Some days I do it bet­ter than others. WA: I know what you mean, be­cause I find it re­ally hard say­ing no, and my wife would al­ways say to me, “Just re­mem­ber when you say yes to them, you’re say­ing no to us,” and that would hurt. CB: And that’s the thing – it does. I look at you, you’ve got two kids, and you do the ex­act same thing. I hear you talk about the kids and you might have been away for three days and you haven’t seen them, it’s the ex­act same jug­gle. WA: It is. Why is it eas­ier for us to say no to our fam­i­lies than to strangers who ask us to do things? Why is that? CB: Be­cause your fam­ily knows you and they know where your mo­ti­va­tion comes from and they know your heart, whereas strangers don’t. So I think you feel like their first gut [in­stinct] is go­ing to be that you’re not a nice per­son or that you don’t care about them and all those

things, which you hope that your fam­ily un­der­stands you do feel about them. WA: Maybe their un­der­stand­ing of you kind of lets you take them for granted a bit. CB: Maybe. WA: That’s a scary thought. CB: I’m very, very – more than I ever have been – aware of my time with my fam­ily, and I re­alise for my own men­tal health I have to have it or my life is out of whack. This is go­ing to sound re­ally creepy, but I’ll often be driv­ing to work and I’ll look at a mum next to me in her car with an empty baby seat or an empty car seat in the back and I’ll look at her and I’ll be like, “I won­der if she’s got the same pain in the pit of her stom­ach that I have right now?” Or, “I won­der if she’s ex­cited about the work she’s go­ing to or if she’s stressed about whether she’s go­ing to be on time pick­ing up her kids?” I think about all the things that are run­ning through her head. And the only thing that gives me so­lace is that I know I’m not alone in feel­ing that. WA: You started this job as a woman in your 20s, you’re now in your 30s, and you’ve had chil­dren along the way. Since I started work­ing with you, you’ve had a child and raised a mil­lion dol­lars for brain can­cer, so that’s a busy cou­ple of years. CB: [Laughs.] I do feel I have packed a lot into my life in a short time. WA: How dif­fer­ent of a per­son are you now? CB: Oh, hugely dif­fer­ent. WA: In what way? CB: I’m just grow­ing; I’m ma­tur­ing and grow­ing up, but I hap­pen to be do­ing it at the same time as be­ing on tele­vi­sion, so ev­ery­one’s watch­ing that. But I think I feel like, more and more, I’m get­ting to know who I am, what I stand for, what I like and what I don’t like, and I’m also prob­a­bly be­com­ing [pauses] more re­flec­tive… WA: Re­flec­tive is not good for com­mer­cial TV, you know that. CB: And that’s the thing. So, my opin­ions on some things… I thought you were sup­posed to be­come more cer­tain about how you felt about things and be­come firmer in your be­liefs the older you get, but I feel like I’m go­ing the other way. The way I feel about things is chang­ing. I’ll have a view about some­thing and then I’ll meet some­body who’s gone through it or I’ll read an ar­ti­cle about it and get a deeper un­der­stand­ing, and I change my view.

``not ev­ery­body is go­ing to agree with me or like who I am or what I stand for´´

WA: The para­dox I find of our jobs is that it doesn’t tol­er­ate doubt very well. It’s hard to ex­press doubt in a com­mer­cial TV for­mat with­out it be­com­ing re­ally bor­ing. CB: The tricky thing about be­ing in the pub­lic spot­light and voic­ing an opin­ion on one thing, and then two years later your opin­ion is the com­plete op­po­site, is that there is a record there [about what] you said two years ago, so how can you say that now? And that’s the thing I think would have con­cerned me more when I was younger; now I’m OK chang­ing my mind. WA: This is in­ter­est­ing – do you think you care less about what peo­ple think about you now than you used to? CB: Do you want my hon­est an­swer? [Laughs.] WA: I want the hon­est an­swer. CB: No, I’m some­one who cares what peo­ple think about me. Of course I am. But, yes you’re right, the older I’m get­ting and the more I re­alise what’s im­por­tant to me and what mat­ters to me and who I want to be, the more com­fort­able I am that not ev­ery­body is go­ing to agree with me or like who I am or what I stand for. WA: I have to ask you about your Lo­gies speech [when Bick­more won the Gold Lo­gie in 2015]. I had never been to the Lo­gies be­fore then and I re­mem­ber that mo­ment watch­ing you on­stage in what was typ­i­cally a glam­orous dress wear­ing a de­cid­edly unglam­orous beanie on your head. And I knew at that mo­ment, as soon as you put that beanie on, I was like OK, this is a his­toric mo­ment. CB: It has taken too long for me to be in­ter­viewed by you and tell me all these lovely things [laughs]. WA: But I also know that mo­ment al­most never hap­pened and that it was a dif­fi­cult thing for you to do, be­cause talk­ing about brain can­cer [which claimed the life of Car­rie’s hus­band, Greg Lange, in 2010] was not some­thing you had been do­ing pub­licly a great deal be­fore that. CB: To be hon­est, when you’re go­ing through some­thing, I was 21 when Greg was di­ag­nosed with brain can­cer and I had to grow up re­ally, re­ally, re­ally quickly, just more in a prac­ti­cal sense, and it was just a lot of things go­ing on at the time that meant we didn’t have a lot of time to re­flect. It wasn’t un­til Greg had passed away that I had a chance to maybe re­flect on what had hap­pened and what we had been go­ing through. It was only in re­flec­tion that I then had this grow­ing de­sire to want to do some­thing and to make sure no other fam­ily had to go through that. But I’ve al­ways had this feel­ing that Greg, Ol­lie, my fam­ily, Greg’s fam­ily, [they] didn’t choose the ca­reer path that I did. I chose that, right? Ev­ery­thing I do, I do with them in mind. Ev­ery time I speak about him, ev­ery time I speak about brain can­cer, I do it with them in mind. I think for so long I wanted to make sure that I pre­serve that in­tensely pri­vate, ab­so­lutely dev­as­tat­ing jour­ney for ev­ery­body, but then I re­alised that I was in this sit­u­a­tion where I could also raise a lot of aware­ness, [and] a lot of money that, in turn, could mean other fam­i­lies like mine may not have to one day go through that. WA: Is there part of you that looks for­ward to a day when you never get asked about this again? CB: Well, I’m happy for that day to come when they find a cure and no one is ever hav­ing to go through that, but un­til then, no I un­der­stand that it’s my story and my life. If you’d asked me as a lit­tle girl what I thought my life would be like, I would never have thought [starts to cry], I would never have thought it would be any­thing that it has been. [Pauses and stares at the ceil­ing for a mo­ment be­fore look­ing back at Aly.] You’ve made me bloody cry. WA: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. [Looks gen­uinely pained.] CB: I don’t spend too much time re­flect­ing on it; it makes me up­set. It has cer­tainly not been the life I thought, but there are so many good things I got out of it. I know no­body’s life is per­fect, and that’s the great thing about the job I get to do be­cause I meet peo­ple in all cir­cum­stances and all sit­u­a­tions and I see that ev­ery­body is car­ry­ing some­thing – and the more we can do it to­gether, the bet­ter. WA: Well, let me bring this back… CB: I didn’t re­alise you were go­ing to make me cry! [Laughs.]

WA: Hon­estly, sorry, I didn’t mean to. One of the first things I no­ticed when I first started work­ing here is I reckon 80 per cent of your con­tri­bu­tion to the show hap­pens off-cam­era and peo­ple don’t un­der­stand that. One of the first things I no­ticed was that you had this im­me­di­ate, re­ally pierc­ingly in­sight­ful way of un­der­stand­ing the au­di­ence. I saw you re-or­der en­tire seg­ments… CB: I piss peo­ple off, is that what you’re say­ing? [Laughs.] WA: Not me, be­cause I didn’t have to pro­duce it. I have seen you sit down and dis­cuss an in­ter­view we were do­ing and make two or three com­ments and sud­denly the whole thing has changed. And I never could have seen that, but you are able to see it. Is there some­thing about your life where your per­son­al­ity al­lows you to stand in for the au­di­ence in that way?

CB: I don’t think I al­ways get it right, I don’t think I can ever fully un­der­stand or an­tic­i­pate or get right what ev­ery­one at home is think­ing or feel­ing. But I do def­i­nitely think that with ev­ery­thing I do: do peo­ple at home care? Are my friends and fam­ily go­ing to care about this? I think it maybe comes back to the fact I never got into this job to, quite se­ri­ously, never for it to be about me. I still find it in­cred­i­bly hard to read ar­ti­cles about my­self – to even be in the news my­self. I com­pletely un­der­stand that it’s part of the job and the gig, but that was never my mo­ti­va­tion. My mo­ti­va­tion was al­ways to share in­for­ma­tion, sto­ries and be the mid­dle­man for in­for­ma­tion. I just want peo­ple to en­joy what they are watch­ing and get some­thing out of it at home. If I can do that, that is my main aim. WA: I want that too, but I’m bug­gered if I know how [laughs]. CB: The day peo­ple stop en­joy­ing what they’re watch­ing is the day that I lose my job. Car­rie and Waleed co-host The Project, 6.30pm week­nights, on Net­work Ten.

DESK MATES (from left) Waleed Aly and Car­rie Bick­more on The Project; Bick­more at the 2015 Lo­gies.

CAR­RIE WEARS Kate Sylvester gown, kate­sylvester.com

FAM­ILY TIME (from top) Bick­more with her son Oliver, 10; and with two-year-old Evie.

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